Here is what I have done to try and fix it (after searching the web for a while for an answer): It seemed to possibly coincide with uninstalling Avast, so I searched the registry and removed all traces (there were just a few). Disconnected all network drives, and searched the registry for left over traces, null pointers, etc. - nothing there.
Ran one of the programs as Administrator - changed nothing.
Searched for file folders with unusually large sizes - I had a weird tracing thing happen once.
Refreshed WBEM repository.
Started and stopped various services....no revelations.
Cleaned temp files, other garbage.
Also, I do not know of any symbolic links or directory junctions other than the Windows built in for My Documents, etc....I know this can cause problems, but I don't think I have any.
As far as I know, all acls are set to what they ought to be, or better...in other words, I have added user permissions, but not denied any or taken any away...
And that's about it...I am not convinced that Avast had anything to do with it, but the timing is close, though I can't remember if it is exact....
The computer is a month old, and is plenty fast enough - quad core, 8 gigs ddr3 ram - plenty of hard drive space....
I'm almost always able to solve this stuff on my own. This problem is making computing fairly unworkable.
Any suggestions? I'm stumped.